Thoughts on returning to the studio classroom…

Painting using oils and pastels on paper titled
Acceptance with Titian Diana and Acteon ○ oil and pastel on paper ○ 23.5”x22.5” ○ Pamm Hanson ○ 2021

by Teaching Artist Pamm Hanson

COVID-19 forced me to step up to a steep learning curve to learn to teach on Zoom! I tried to keep my attitude strong and I leaned into the generous support from PwA staff and the patience and support from the class participants. Whew!

Then we began to feel some of the benefits of being together virtually – ease of access; a sense of community without risks and demands navigating in-person group dynamics. I was surprised how close I felt to the group. But oh my how I missed walking about a working studio classroom! Oh how I love the hum of artists working together, alone with each work but all together holding the space safe and possible. How we need this as artists. There is so much risk involved in making marks, putting paint on canvas. No one can do it for me, so I really need the support of artistic community, from other artists who understand.

There is nothing safe about making art, so our spaces where we make art must feel safe. I was awed by how much of this connection we could muster through Zoom! But I also know just how deeply we can hold it by simply sitting and working quietly together.

Yet the pandemic has changed us and the threat lingers and changes. I am signed up to teach a painting class in Q4 – in-person. I feel the pull of participating artists I might miss because the class is in-person. Oh I hate to miss them! And, of course, the nagging question if I will have to wear a mask! (I am so sick of masks!!). I have my fingers crossed and I am glad I am a painter so studio classroom is BIG, AIRY and puts less pressure on a decision about a more challenging physical space.

As artists we have a responsibility toward ourselves and toward each other. So how do we act responsibly making our decisions about when to gather and when to stay separate?

I have decided my primary responsibility is to my art practice. What furthers me? What are my parameters for a feeling of creative freedom and positive health care? I do not want to be in a position that puts pressure on my feeling of health risk. I need to trust the people sitting with me. I need to be clear about the physical space around that I need, whatever that is. I need to make informed choices, and I need to own my own choices without apology.

I wish I had some magic wand to make my studio classroom magically safe from physical and psychological harm! I fiercely do my best, but I cannot give guarantees. And, I need help from the participants working with me, to let me know what they need, to engage in creative problem-solving to get as close as possible to what each individual artist needs. And, I can hope to foster a feeling in the studio that allows for repair and healing if and when something happens to raise anxiety.

So I am leaning into returning to the studio classroom! Awkwardly but surely! And, I need everyone joining me in that studio to join with a generous spirit of working together to find our way through these new and unfamiliar times. It is not a time to take things personally, to go to distrust before trust. How radical to assume we all want the best for each other in the studio so each artist can take radical risks in their work! As Flaubert said: “Be regular and orderly in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Let us be careful and kind in our gathering so we can take the risks necessary to finish that painting!!


Tonight! Special Event!

Wednesday, July 21

Join us for the accompanying discussion to Trimpin’s “Hear and How” – currently being exhibited at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art – where our Participant Artists will share their art forms and what they created during the pandemic. How are we navigating this experience as a community? As individuals? As artists? 

This event features PwA Participant Artists, Teaching Artists, and CEO Holly Jacobson. It will be moderated by BIMA.

Tune in tonight from 6-7:30pm.

For more information, click here.

In The News

Creativity may be the key to healthier aging and living longer

“Ongoing research suggests that creativity may be key to healthy aging. Studies show that participating in activities such as singing, theater performance and visual artistry could support the well-being of older adults, and that creativity, which is related to the personality trait of openness, can lead to greater longevity.”

James C. Kaufman focuses on “everyday creativity” when teaching his introduction to creativity course at the University of Connecticut. The phrase refers to ordinary tasks such as parenting, yard landscaping, or giving advice.

“Creativity can be cultivated by following passions both old and new. Try not to compare yourself to genius creators or be so focused on the outcome that the process stops being fun.”


Learning of Judith Scott

Sisters Joyce Wallace Scott and Judith ScottSisters Joyce Wallace Scott and Judith Scott

Learning of Judith Scott
by Tim “Birch” Schooler

Judith Scott, deceased, endured tragedy in her life, and her works of texture, color, and form attest to perception and intuition of her vision. They are multicolored treasures. Since the time when she was born with her fraternal twin sister, Judith Scott had Down’s syndrome. Judith could not hear and did not learn to speak. Before her sister, Joyce Wallace Scott, gained custody, she had lived in an institution for more than thirty years.

Her artworks are ingenious and, often, resplendent works of textile and found objects. Perhaps the gift of her isolation from discourse was her breathtaking ingenuity with colors and textures and found objects.

I partly learned of Scott’s artwork during Ben’s 3-D Materials class through Path with Art.

I will have the biography titled Entwined by Joyce Scott delivered to my home, and I will learn about the tragic separation of the twins. I hope to then read about how Judith Scott overcame her years of isolation, gradually, with Creative Growth, an organization in Oakland, California.

The statement about her at the website of the Edlin Gallery indicates the power of Judith Scott. Amazing that is, since Judith, a vulnerable person, and her work which she discovered and produced became celebrated and treasured.